A Mountain Called Angel Fire

Author Zane Gray wrote here, former New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace wrote part of his novel Ben Hur here and now I’ve written here….

              Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.  Agua Fria peak lies 28 miles east of Taos in the Moreno Valley.  In the 1700s the Moache Ute Indians migrated to the area and were entranced by the colorful light in the skies above the mountain there believing it was a sign of the Great Spirit. During a forest fire which threatened their villages the Utes prayed to the Great Spirit for rain and when a downpour occurred which extinguished the fire they named the mountain Angel Fire.

 The early 1870s brought 7,000 frontiersmen to the mountains in search of gold and Moreno County became the most productive gold mining district in New Mexico yielding over 6,000,000  dollars of the precious ore between 1866 and 1907. The wealth of the area also attracted bad men Jesse James, Black Jack Ketchum and many others looking to make their own fortunes and a string of robberies and murders followed in their wake.


 In 1950 the ranching family of Roy H. Lebus from Wichita Falls, Texas bought 22,600 acres including Angel Fire mountain with the intention of developing the property into a ski and golf destination resort. When they opened in 1966 they had only limited lift operations in place using primitive snow cat machines to transport guests up and down the mountain. There were 750 visitors the first year. A nine hole golf course and a dirt air strip were added the next summer and in 1971 the first condo was built.


 When the Lebus family ran into financial problems, Arizona-Colorado Land & Cattle, Inc. purchased the resort in 1972 and the following year they completed a country club and the Star Fire Lodge. Shortly thereafter the resort was sold again and during the rest of the 1970s a small grocery store, a post office and several specialty shops opened in the village and the resort added several new ski lifts and a new golf course.


The 1980s brought another new owner, Don Lasater, who built a larger hotel, paved the airstrip and added snow making equipment. In 1987 Lasater went to jail for drug trafficking and although he was eventually pardoned by President bill Clinton, the resort was sold once more to partners Gary Plante and Ron Evans.  Although it was still struggling financially the resort gained in popularity throughout the 1990s as a beautiful and family friendly destination for both summer and winter sports. Plante filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and in 1996 Tim Allen and Craig Martin purchased the resort and built the several mile long Chili Express ski lift.  The following year Allen bought out his partner and started an aggressive improvement program, opening more ski runs and lifts on the mountain.

The multi-million dollar improvements to the now 18 hole golf course included a resort with a health club, a bar and grille and a giant dining hall serving elegant gourmet meals. A new tennis facility was built next to the golf course making Angel Fire one of the largest sports facilities in New Mexico.  Everything was constructed within sight of the sacred mountain that started it all and each project was carefully planned to preserve the natural beauty of this historic site that the Utes first saw hundreds of years earlier.

 My time at this beautiful resort has been far too short enjoying the excellent skiing conditions, the attention of a staff of 450 professional and friendly workers and special holiday events including a torchlight parade and fireworks display. Throughout the many changes in its history Angel Fire has maintained a reputation as a family friendly resort with activities for every age and extremely reasonable rates. Add in a first class restaurant and lodge and today the resort draws visitors from all over the world in both summer and winter.


Next week its Red River where I’ve heard they’re breaking all records for snow fall and I’ll tell you all about the largest land grant ever issued in the United States. Till then have a Happy New Year and I’ll see ya down the road…


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